Napoleon Bonaparte was a naughty boy.
We remember him most of all for his conquest of Europe, his disastrous fall, and his exiles on Elba and St. Helena.
He was a crazy little dude, pissed off about his size, angry at the world, power mad, vindictive, egoistic, egotistic, and a great warrior.
He was also madly in love – several times.
Most notably with Josephine.
She was really the great love of his life, though she broke his heart and he divorced her.
He went back.
Josephine de Beauharnais was born on the island of Martinique to a White Creole family. She was called Rose most of her life, at least until she met the funny looking little Frenchman who would be Emperor of France.
She became, later in life, a patron of roses, raised them, cultured them, and one is named for her.
Josephine was a widow when Napoleon met her, she was also the mistress of a wealthy Frenchman,Paul Francois Jean Nicholas Barras. He had tired of her, thought her spending habits too much, and pawned her off on Bonaparte.
Napoleon fell madly in love with her, rotten teeth, bad breath and all.
She did not love him…at first…but married him anyway, and she broke his heart by having an affair while he was away. She took a Hussar, or army officer, named Hyppolyte Charles as her lover. Napoleon was heartbroken, furious, took a lover of his own, but later reconciled with Josephine, and eventually made her Empress of the French.
It was a huge scandal, and Napoleon was a laughing stock.
Prior to the mess that was the scandal of the day, while Bonaparte was laying waste to Europe, he was the ultimate writer of love letters. And he was very, very naughty.
Oh, yes, some were loving, saying things like: “…You to whom nature has given spirit, sweetness, and beauty, you who alone can move and rule my heart, you who know all too well the absolute empire you exercise over it.”
Pretty passionate stuff!
But, he also wrote this: “I am going to bed with my heart full of your adorable image…I cannot wait to give you proofs of my ardent love…How happy I would be if I could assist you at your undressing, the little firm white breast, the adorable face, the hair tied UP in a scarf a la creole. You know that I will never forget the little visits, you know, the little black forest…I kiss it a thousand times and wait impatiently for the moment I will be in it. To live within Josephine is to live within the Elysian fields. Kisses on your mouth, your eyes, your breasts, everywhere, everywhere.
Earlier that same year, he had written: “…you must come back with him, you understand?…hopeless sorrow, inconsolable misery, sadness without end, if I am so unhappy as to see him return alone…Adorable friend, he will see you, he will breathe in your temple; perhaps you will even grant him the unique and perfect favor of kissing your cheek. A kiss on your heart, and one much lower down, much lower.
Can you imagine what it would have been like if he’d had Twitter?
But, alas, as have most of the love affairs I’ve read about lately, it ended badly.
She was the Empress, she could not produce the much desired heir, and he divorced her to marry an Austrian Archduchess. Whom, BTW, he referred to as “the womb.”
Though they were apart, he paid Josephine’s bills, and loved her the rest of his life.
His last words: “…France, The Army, The Head of the Army, Josephine.”
I guess he missed the little black forest!